Sky News - Ashleigh Gillon

Release Date: 
20 June 2018
Transcript
E&OE

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Let's return now to federal politics. The Government has announced this morning that it's going to be co-funding a world-first inquiry into workplace sexual harassment. Joining us now in the studio is the Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer. Good to see you. 

KELLY O'DWYER:

Great to see you too, Ash.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Thanks for coming in. What are you hoping this inquiry will achieve and does it stem from the ‘Me Too’ movement we've seen here in Australia?

KELLY O'DWYER:

So what we want it to achieve is to firstly address for us some of the practical solutions that we can have around sexual harassment in the workplace. Women should be safe in their workplace, just as they should be safe in their homes and in their communities and they should be free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment, of course, has very real personal consequences for people but also it has very significant economic consequences for them as well in terms of their financial security. 

So a woman who might have been sexually harassed in the workplace might not get that promotion, she might actually have to leave her employment, she might not be able to get a referee when she goes for that next job because of the harassment that has actually taken place, and that goes to her economic security. We also know that it has an impact on those businesses as well, and for the first time we're going to actually have a national inquiry that looks at all of these issues, that comes up with some practical solutions and that draws on economic evidence about the impact, through economic modelling, that it has on our economy and on individuals and their financial security. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Are you comfortable with the way the ‘Me Too’ movement has been progressing here in Australia or are you concerned about the trial by media aspect that we have seen? 

KELLY O'DWYER:

So with ‘Me Too’ I think the first thing I would say about it is that it has been important, I think, in shining a light on harassment in the workplace. But there are some concerns I have around exposing of complainants and those people who are the subject of a complaint. I don't know whether that is always going to be the best mechanism to be able to sensitively and coherently deal with those complaints and so it's really great that we've got this national inquiry that can look at, in a very careful and considered manner, how we can ensure that women who have been sexually harassed can have their complaint dealt with quickly and effectively and sensitively, but also, so we can actually prevent the sexual harassment taking place in the first place. We don't want the ‘Me Too’ movement to silence the very voices that it's there to amplify.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

And there has been an argument that is happening right now because there is an argument that Australia's defamation laws are essentially failing women because it's women who face the burden of providing proof of accusations and like we see in other countries the onus of being on the person who has to prove that those accusations are false. Do you think there is room to reform this area of defamation law? 

KELLY O'DWYER:

So what was said to Kate in providing the funding to her, it's her inquiry, it's an independent inquiry separate to government being run through the Australian Human Rights Commission by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. There are broad terms of reference and we are going to be very keen to see what she finds in the various meetings and hearings and investigations that they conduct in line with the broad terms of reference, and we will obviously look really carefully at the recommendations they make. I'm not going to prejudge the recommendations that are made by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, but it is really important work. 

I think a lot of people have historically seen sexual harassment as an issue around being nice to women and it's not that. It's a very important issue and one that has a very sharp economic impact particularly for women. There are men who get sexually harassed as well, I think it is important to say that, but the majority of people who are harassed in the workplace are, in fact, women. And as an economic minister and also the Minister for Women, I do want to change the conversation around what sexual harassment actually means to individuals. We all, I think, understand there are devastating personal consequences, but also there are financial consequences as well. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

I'm keen for your thoughts on the debate we have seen this week after that horrible murder of Eurydice in your home town of Melbourne. Were police wrong to warn women to take responsibility for our own safety by carrying mobile phones, letting people know where we are? Was that just common sense to you or was that a form of victim blaming?

KELLY O'DWYER:

The first thing I want to say is I think this has obviously been a truly horrific and tragic event. Seeing the loss of the life of any young person, and a woman in such violent circumstances, is just truly awful and I think all of us feel for her family, and the community has been touched by it is the truth, I mean we've all been touched by it. I think it's actually had a really strong national impact. But to your question around this idea that women are being blamed for their attacks, of course women are not to blame for being violently raped and killed, of course not. I mean I think nobody sensible would actually ever claim that. I'm not sure though that that's what was being said, when all of us go about our daily business, you know whether it's getting into a car or crossing a road, all of us are conscious of our surroundings and I think there's probably a bit of common sense in that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Just looking at the way women are treated in this workplace, in Parliament House here, when your colleague Jane Prentice got dumped by pre-selectors I remember speaking with a number of your female colleagues within the Coalition, many of them were furious but they wouldn't express those concerns on camera in an interview or publicly because they were worried about making waves ahead of their own pre-selection processes. A lot of them said to me this makes the Coalition's target for 50 per cent representation by 2020 just completely laughable. Do you acknowledge now that that is just an unrealistic proposition?

KELLY O'DWYER:

There is no doubt that in the Liberal Party we can do better on better representation of women in the party serving at the highest levels right down and involved in the organisation as well. But we're not unique in that. I think this is actually a common problem for a number of political parties and the truth is when you actually look at the legacy in the Liberal Party and I'm, along with the Prime Minister and a number of my senior female colleagues, hosting a women's networking event for women in the Coalition, everyone's welcome but it's predominantly focused around women, we're actually going to be talking about some of the past successes that we've had, where we had the first woman elected to the Parliament, we've had a whole series of firsts. I mean Julie Bishop of course is our first female Foreign Minister.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

But again, just looking at that target, do you acknowledge that now it's laughable, which is the word that one of your colleagues said to me.

KELLY O'DWYER:

What I would say is we clearly need to do more. We need to do more but I think it's actually important to have strong targets. It's important to have targets that we're held to account for and I think that is the benefit of actually having targets. I would like to see more women in the Parliament. I'd like to keep the women that we have here here, so long as they want to continue to serve. Now that is obviously a matter for the party organisation. We are a grassroots organisation, but I can say that I know all of my female colleagues work incredibly hard for their local communities. All of them make a very valuable policy contribution in this place and I stand with them. 

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Just finally, we have seen these reports, well Vikki Campion, the former Nationals staffer, said that she was pressured to have an abortion. Obviously you're not in the National Party, but do you think that as the Minister for Women, did you find those reports concerning and do you think that that party needs to actually look into these allegations that a female staffer was pressured in this building by male politicians to have an abortion?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I'm not going to get into a commentary on that interview or on Vikki or on Barnaby. I mean these are personal matters for them. If they want to make allegations about individuals in this place that's a matter for them and that's probably an interview you need to do with her.

ASHLEIGH GILLON:

Kelly O'Dwyer, we'll leave it there. Appreciate you joining us and we will be watching that national inquiry closely to see what results it comes up with in a year or so looking at workplace sexual harassment around the nation. Thank you so much.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Great pleasure. 

[ends]